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the art of leading dramatic performances on the stage or in films. The modern theatrical director is in complete charge of all the artistic aspects of a dramatic presentation.

It is the director's first task to discover a central mood or idea in the text of the play to be performed that will serve as a unifying determinant for the interpretation of individual scenes and characters. Then he or she must work out the movement of the actors on stage and the pacing of each line and scene. Finally, the director helps plan the lighting, scenery, sound effects, and musical accompaniment for the production. All the director's efforts are aimed at creating a fully unified aesthetic experience.

For information on motion picture directing, see motion picturesmotion pictures,
movie-making as an art and an industry, including its production techniques, its creative artists, and the distribution and exhibition of its products (see also motion picture photography; Motion Picture Cameras under camera).
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; motion picture photographymotion picture photography
or cinematography,
photographic arts and techniques involved in making motion pictures.

See also photography, still. The Camera
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. See also drama, Westerndrama, Western,
plays produced in the Western world. This article discusses the development of Western drama in general; for further information see the various national literature articles.
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; Asian dramaAsian drama,
dramatic works produced in the East. Of the three major Asian dramas—Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese—the oldest is Sanskrit, although the dates of its origin are uncertain.
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; theatertheater,
building, structure, or space in which dramatic performances take place. In its broadest sense theater can be defined as including everything connected with dramatic art—the play itself, the stage with its scenery and lighting, makeup, costumes, acting, and actors.
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; actingacting,
the representation of a usually fictional character on stage or in films. At its highest levels of accomplishment acting involves the employment of technique and/or an imaginative identification with the character on the part of the actor.
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; scene design and stage lightingscene design and stage lighting,
settings and illumination designed for theatrical productions.

See also drama, Western; Asian drama; theater; directing; acting. Ancient Greece
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Evolution of Modern Directing

Directing in some form has always existed in the theater. In ancient Greece playwrights trained their chorus and actors, and medieval religious plays had either individual or group directors. During later centuries the stage manager was the forerunner of the director. In England, Madame VestrisVestris, Lucia Elizabeth (Bartolozzi)
, 1797–1856, English actress and manager, the first woman to be a lessee of a theater. The daughter of a music and fencing teacher, she made an unsuccessful marriage at 16 to Armand Vestris, her ballet master.
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 and W. C. MacreadyMacready, William Charles
, 1793–1873, English actor and manager. The son of a provincial manager, he first appeared as Romeo in his father's company in 1810. His London debut (1816) was as Orestes in The Distressed Mother.
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 were the first to place great emphasis on the importance of rehearsing, and they also introduced realistic scenery and acting techniques. The 19th-century interest in realism, coupled with far-reaching technical advances, made indispensable the director's function of integrating the various and increasingly complex aspects of play production.

Approaches to Directing

The beginning of modern directing is commonly associated with the Meiningen PlayersMeiningen Players,
German theatrical company that toured Europe from 1874 to 1890. The group, inspiring theatrical reforms wherever it performed, was a major influence in the movement toward modern theater.
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, a German acting troupe organized in 1874 by George II, duke of Saxe-Meiningen. Under the direction of Ludwig Chronegk, the group worked as a unit, setting an influential example of effective ensemble playing. Leading realistic directors of the late 19th cent. included André AntoineAntoine, André
, 1858–1943, French theatrical director, manager, and critic. In opposition to the teachings of the Paris Conservatory, he formed (1887) his own company, the Théâtre Libre.
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 in France, Otto BrahmBrahm, Otto
, 1856–1912, German theatrical director, manager and critic. Inspired by the work of Antoine in Paris, he founded a theater, the Freie Bühne, in Berlin in 1889.
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 in Germany, and Constantin StanislavskyStanislavsky, Constantin
, 1863–1938, Russian theatrical director, teacher, and actor, whose original name was Constantin Sergeyevich Alekseyev. He was cofounder with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko of the Moscow Art Theater in 1898, which he would remain associated with for
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 in Russia. The most innovative of these was probably Stanislavsky, who stressed ensemble acting and the importance of actors' absolute identification with their roles.

Almost as soon as realism gained ascendancy, various antirealistic theatrical movements developed, beginning with Paul Fort's Théâtre d'Art (1890). The theories of Adolphe AppiaAppia, Adolphe
, 1862–1928, Swiss theorist of modern stage lighting and décor. In interpreting Wagner's ideas in scenic designs for his operas, Appia rejected painted scenery for the three-dimensional set; he felt that shade was as necessary as light to link the
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 in Germany and Edward Gordon CraigCraig, Edward Gordon,
1872–1966, English scene designer, producer, and actor. The son of Ellen Terry, Gordon Craig began acting with Henry Irving's Lyceum company (1885–97).
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 in England encouraged European directors to experiment with symbolic settings. Even conservative directors such as Harley Granville-BarkerGranville-Barker, Harley,
1877–1946, English dramatist, actor, producer, and critic. As comanager of the Court Theatre from 1904 to 1907 he was an advocate and producer of "uncommercial" and experimental theater in his time.
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 and Jacques CopeauCopeau, Jacques
, 1879–1949, French theatrical producer and critic. A founder (1909) and editor (1912–14) of the Nouvelle Revue française, he established the experimental Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris (1913–24) in order to
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 soon realized that a realistic setting was not essential to the true rendering of a play's meaning.

In addition to producing increased artistic possibilities for directors, the rise of antirealism made the director's practical task of coordinating scene design, lighting, and acting even more essential. A director who experimented successfully with both realism and antirealism was the German Max ReinhardtReinhardt, Max,
1873–1943, Austrian theatrical producer and director, originally named Max Goldmann. After acting under Otto Brahm at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, he managed (1902–5) his own theater, where he produced more than 50 plays.
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. Noted for his extravagant productions, he tried to remove the barrier between actors and audience by projecting the stage into the audience and scattering actors among the spectators.

During the 1920s there were several important antirealist directors working in Germany and the Soviet Union, notably Vsevolod MeyerholdMeyerhold, Vsevolod
, 1874–1940?, Russian theatrical director and producer. Meyerhold led the revolt against naturalism in the Russian theater. Working with the Moscow Art Theater, he experimented with his own directing ideas until the outbreak of the Revolution.
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, Alexander Tairov, and Erwin PiscatorPiscator, Erwin
, 1893–1966, German theatrical director and producer who, with Bertolt Brecht, was the foremost exponent of epic theater, a genre that emphasizes the sociopolitical context rather than the emotional content or aesthetics of the play.
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. A disciple of Reinhardt, Piscator worked with the playwright Bertolt BrechtBrecht, Bertolt
, 1898–1956, German dramatist and poet, b. Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht. His brilliant wit, his outspoken Marxism, and his revolutionary experiments in the theater made Brecht a vital and controversial force in modern drama.
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, whose theories have greatly influenced 20th-century theater. In order to emphasize the social and intellectual content of Brecht's plays, Piscator utilized stylized settings and mechanical devices such as motion pictures. Brecht wished to insure the intellectual receptiveness of his audience by making it continually aware that it was watching a play, not reality. To this end he and Piscator took the opposite of the Stanislavsky technique and schooled their actors to alienate themselves from their roles.

During the 19th and early 20th cent., the American theater was dominated by directors specializing in elaborate surface realism, with David BelascoBelasco, David
, 1853–1931, American theatrical manager and producer, b. San Francisco. He was actively connected with the theater from his youth, and while associated with Dion Boucicault in Virginia City, Nev., he was first exposed to scenic realism.
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 as their prototype. A break from that tendency was made by the Group TheatreGroup Theatre,
organization formed in New York City in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg. Its founders, who had worked earlier with the Provincetown Players, wished to revive and redefine American theater by establishing a permanent company to present
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 (1931–41), with Cheryl Crawford, Lee StrasbergStrasberg, Lee
, 1901–82, American theatrical director, teacher, and actor, b. Budzanów, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Budaniv, Ukraine) as Israel Strassberg. Strasberg immigrated to New York City in 1909. He was a cofounder in 1931 of the Group Theatre.
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, and Harold ClurmanClurman, Harold
, 1901–80, American director, manager, critic, and author, b. New York City. In his early years he acted in minor roles, becoming associated with New York's Group Theatre as founder and managing director in 1931.
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 directing plays of social significance and promulgating Stanislavsky's theories of acting. Strasberg's Actors' Studio has produced several generations of theater and film actors devoted to the Stanislavsky technique. Enormous emotional expressiveness was also elicited by José Quintero in his direction of actors at New York's Circle in the Square and in Poland by Jerzy GrotowskiGrotowski, Jerzy
, 1933–99, Polish stage director and theatrical theorist. Grotowski was founder and director of the small but influential Polish Laboratory Theatre (1959). He propounded a "poor theatre," which eliminates all nonessentials, i.e.
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 in his sparely experimental productions at Wrocław's Polish Laboratory Theatre.

During the 1950s and 60s the emergence of the theater of the absurd and the theater of cruelty granted directors more scope than ever. Many directors, among them Peter BrookBrook, Peter,
1925–, English theatrical director, b. London, grad. Oxford (1943). An innovative, unconventional, and controversial figure, Brook mounts energetic productions in which the entire stage is utilized and realistic sets are banished in favor of bold, abstract,
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, began incorporating music, acrobatics, dance, film, and mime into their productions, whether the plays being performed were by Beckett, Stoppard, or Shakespeare. Theatrical happeningshappening,
an artistic event of a theatrical nature, but usually improvised spontaneously without the framework of a plot. The term originated with the creation and performance in 1959 of Allan Kaprow's "18 Happenings in 6 Parts.
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 and the orgiastic productions of Julian BeckBeck, Julian,
1925–85, American theatrical director, actor, and producer, b. New York City. In 1948 he married

Judith Malina, 1926–2015, also an American theatrical director, actor, and producer, b. Germany.
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's Living Theater—replete with audience participation—may be viewed either as giving the director unlimited freedom or as eliminating his function altogether.

The director was commonly of prime importance in the theatrical productions of the late 20th cent. In the Brooks tradition, a number of directors, including America's Peter Sellars, Germany's Peter Stein, France's Ariane Mnouchine, and Poland's Tadeusz Kantor, put their individual and innovative creative stamps on classical and contemporary works. A wide range of approaches and preoccupations characterized late 20th-century directors, including the social concerns of such figures as Brazil's Augusto Boal and Russia's Lev Dodin; the experimentalism of such writer-directors as America's Robert WilsonWilson, Robert,
1941–, dramatist, director, and designer, b. Waco, Tex. He began his arts career as a painter. A leading figure in postmodern theater since 1963, when he arrived in New York City, he has created lengthy, often controversial multimedia events that combine
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 and Maria Irene Fornes, Canada's Robert Lepage, and Japan's Shuji Terayama; and the varied techniques of such other prominent directors as Jonathan MillerMiller, Jonathan Wolfe,
1934–, English director, actor, writer, and physician. Forsaking medicine, Miller made his first London (1961) and New York (1962) stage appearances as coauthor and actor in the zany satirical revue Beyond the Fringe.
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 (Great Britain), Yukio Ninagawa (Japan), Lluís Pasqual (Spain), and Julie Taymore (United States).


See E. G. Craig, The Art of the Theatre (1905) and Towards a New Theatre (1913); C. Stanislavsky, My Life in Art (1948); N. Marshall, The Producer and the Play (2d ed. 1962); T. Cole and H. K. Chinov, ed., Directors on Directing (1963); H. Clurman, On Directing (1972); E. Braun, The Director and the Stage (1982); W. Bell, Sense of Direction (1984); A. Bartow, The Dirctor's Voice (1988); D. Bradby and D. Williams, Directors' Theatre (1988); L. E. Catron, The Director's Vision (1989); A. Dean, The Fundamentals of Play Directing (5th ed. 1989); W. J. Robert, Directing in the Theatre (2d ed. 1993); J. W. Frick and S. M. Vallillo, ed., Theatrical Directors (1994); J. Luere and S. Berger, ed., Playwright vs. Director (1994); M. M. Delgado and P. Heritage, ed., In Contact with the Gods?: Directors Talk Theatre (1997).



the art of creating a harmoniously integrated stage or screen production that has a definite artistic unity; such a production may be a dramatic or musical performance, a motion picture, a television film, or a circus or variety performance.

The director interprets the play, scenario, opera, or ballet in his own way and thus imparts an aesthetic unity to the work of all those participating in the production. He ascertains the genre, form, and ideological content of the production and is responsible for the production’s rhythm and staging. He strives to make the best use of the performing area and guides the performers in their characterizations. The director of motion pictures and television shows is responsible for composition and montage. Directors organize and coordinate all the components of a production: the acting, stage set, costumes, music, lighting, and sound, and in the cinema the work of the cameraman.

Elements of directing have existed in the theater since ancient times, when the playwright or principal actor took responsibility for the unity of a performance. Directing as it is understood today accords the director priority of importance in creating the production, granting only second place to the author of the play or film scenario. This concept of directing first arose in the theater during the second half of the 19th century.

The establishment of directing is connected with the activities of the German Meiningen Theater, A. Antoine’s Théâtre Libre in Paris, O. Brahm’s Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and the Independent Theater in London. These theaters were the first to advance the principles of ensemble, which include coordination of the efforts of all the performers, meticulous re-creation of the historical setting and milieu, and staging of realistic and dynamic mass scenes. The directing at the Théâtre Libre, however, was clearly dominated in the late 19th and the early 20th century by a naturalistic tendency, which resulted in a trend to make social problems excessively biological in nature.

The founders of the Moscow Art Theater, K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, advanced and fulfilled new and consistently realistic principles of directing. In the Moscow Art Theater, productions were a faithful portrayal of life; such a portrayal resulted from the director’s deep understanding of the playwright’s text. Close contact was maintained with the actors and the stage designer, and the production was permeated with details faithful to the play’s historical and social milieu. Directing at the Moscow Art Theater was marked by great psychological refinement and conveyed authenticity of surroundings, atmosphere, and moods. The actors seemed actually to become the personages they portrayed.

The directing at the Moscow Art Theater decisively influenced Russian and foreign directing. The Stanislavsky method, which originated in this theater, when creatively utilized by directors effectively conveys realism in the theater, motion pictures, and television, creating wide perspectives for the director in the most important sphere of his activity—his work with the actors.

Early in the 20th century there appeared in directing a trend opposed to the method of the Moscow Art Theater. The trend’s adherents, who were concerned chiefly with the expressiveness of the play’s form, advanced the principle of deliberate artificiality of action, rejecting the idea of creating an illusion of reality on the stage. The directors V. E. Meyerhold in Russia, G. Craig in Great Britain, and M. Reinhardt in Germany, while resolving different stylistic problems, agreed in affirming vividness, beauty, and poeticizing in stage presentations. This trend, which was particularly fruitful in the musical theater, was also applied and developed in the dramatic theater. Such diversity of trends in directing has enriched the development of the director’s art. The emergence of cinematography in the early 20th century opened up new prospects in directing. The first important film director, D. W. Griffith (USA), utilized the possibilities of the screen to re-create historical events on a large scale.

The development of directing in the Soviet theater is linked with the work of E. B. Vakhtangov, A. Ia. Tairov, K. A. Mardzhanishvili, A. Akhmeteli, L. Kurbas, G. P. Iura, M. M. Krushel’nitskii, A. D. Popov, A. D. Dikii, R. N. Simonov, N. P. Akimov, M. N. Kedrov, N. P. Okhlopkov, A. M. Lobanov, and Iu. A. Zavadskii. Outstanding directors in the Western European theater have been J. Copeau, L. Jouvet, E. Piscator, B. Brecht, E. Burian, and J. Vilar. Each of these directors originated an independent theatrical trend, and each headed a theater with its own style of performing.

Soviet directing, inspired by the ideas of the 1917 October Revolution, strove to create heroic productions national in spirit and militantly tendentious. These productions expressed a new social content in vivid, assertive theatrical form. Affirming the method of socialist realism, Soviet directing has freely synthesized the theatrical concepts of Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, and Meyerhold; during the Soviet period their work found new sources of inspiration and laid the foundation for a Soviet theatrical idiom.

Motion-picture directing has also developed intensively. The film directors S. M. Eisenstein, V. I. Pudovkin, A. P. Dovzhenko, N. M. Shengelaia, L. V. Kuleshov, D. Vertov, G. M. Kozintsev, L. Z. Trauberg, F. M. Ermler, the Vasil’ev brothers, M. I. Romm, S. I. Iutkevich, S. A. Gerasimov, I. A. Pyr’ev, M. K. Kalatozov, M. S. Donskoi, and G. V. Aleksandrov have utilized the cinematic art’s new means of expression and their productions have had a strong influence on world cinematography.

Soviet film directing was innovative in portraying revolutionary epics on the screen and faithfully depicting the actions of large masses of people; it also realistically portrayed historical and modern heroes, thus demonstrating the limitless possibilities of socialist realism in art. At the same time, such outstanding foreign directors as C. Chaplin, E. von Stroheim, F. Capra, R. Clair, J. Renoir, and O. Welles have developed and enriched the progressive, democratic tendencies of cinematic art, exposing the supposed antihumanitarian character of the capitalist system.

Modern directing in both the theater and the cinema is marked by continuing development and enrichment of realistic trends, which have characterized the work of the Soviet stage directors G. A. Tovstonogov, B. I. Ravenskikh, V. N. Pluchek, O. N. Efremov, A. A. Goncharov, F. E. Shishigin, Iu. P. Liubimov, A. V. Efros, V. Kh. Panso, K. K. Ird, Iu. I. Mil’tinis, D. A. Aleksidze, and V. M. Adzhemian. Realism has also dominated the work of the Soviet film directors Iu. A. Raizman, I. E. Kheifits, A. G. Zarkhi, S. F. Bondarchuk, S. I. Rostotskii, V. M. Shukshin, G. N. Chukhrai, E. A. Riazanov, L. A. Kulidzhanov, L. I. Gaidai, M. M. Khutsiev, A. A. Tarkovskii, Iu. N. Ozerov, A. A. Alov and V. N. Naumov, V. P. Zhalakiavichius, O. D. Ioseliani, T. E. Abuladze, E. N. Shengelaia, and G. N. Shengelaia. Soviet directing, while marked by a wealth of creative trends and by individuality of approach, shares ideological goals and a democratism that is determined by the principles of socialist realism.

Innovation and ideological growth have also marked the work of directors in other socialist countries, including A. Munk, A. Wajda, and J. Kawalerowicz (Poland); M. Fryč and O. Vávra (Czechoslovakia); and K. Maetzig, S. Dudow, and K. Wolf (German Democratic Republic). Abroad, the work of the most important film directors continues to oppose antidemocratic and antirealistic trends. Examples are found in the work of R. Rossellini, P. Germi, V. De Sica, F. Fellini, M. Antonioni, L. Visconti, F. Rosi, D. Risi, and E. Petri (Italy); I. Bergman (Sweden); S. Kramer, A. Penn, and S. Kubrick (USA); L. Buñuel (France and Mexico); R. Bresson (France); and K. Shindo and A. Kurosawa (Japan). Other examples are found in the work of such stage directors as J.-L. Barrault and R. Planchon (France), G. Strehler (Italy), and P. Brook (Great Britain).


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Meyerhold, V. E. Stat’i, pis’ma, rechi, besedy, parts 1-2. Moscow, 1968.
Popov, A. D. Khudozhestvennaia tselostnost’ spektaklia. Moscow, 1959.
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Tovstonogov, G. Krug myslei. Leningrad, 1972.
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Vilar, J. O teatral’noi traditsii. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from French.)
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Karaganov, A. Vsevolod Pudovkin. Moscow, 1973.
Barabash, Iu. Chistoe zoloto pravdy. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from Ukrainian.)
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References in classic literature ?
He touched her hand, and turned to the cabman, directing him whither to drive.
When it is arrived at D, let the stone be turned upon its axle, till its attracting end points towards E, and then the island will be carried obliquely towards E; where, if the stone be again turned upon its axle till it stands in the position E F, with its repelling point downwards, the island will rise obliquely towards F, where, by directing the attracting end towards G, the island may be carried to G, and from G to H, by turning the stone, so as to make its repelling extremity to point directly downward.
One day after my return, as I went down to the quay, I saw a ship which had just cast anchor, and was discharging her cargo, while the merchants to whom it belonged were busily directing the removal of it to their warehouses.